Most victims of Kyoto Animation fire tried to escape via stairs leading to the roof but couldn’t open the door


Most victims of the inferno Thursday at a Kyoto Animation Co. studio tried to escape the fire via stairs leading to the rooftop but were unable to open the door at the top of the staircase, police and firefighters said Friday. The cause of their deaths is believed to be carbon monoxide poisoning.

Nineteen of the 33 people who died were found collapsed on the stairs connecting the third floor to the rooftop and the door was closed when firefighters arrived Thursday at the studio.

A 41-year-old man who has admitted to starting the fire was being treated at a hospital for burns to his face, chest and other body parts. Police identified him as Shinji Aoba.

The suspect, who has no fixed address, has suggested revenge was his motive, telling police he started the fire because the company “stole a novel,” according to investigative sources.

His association with the company has not yet been independently verified and police plan to question him after his condition improves.

The death toll from the fire, which was finally extinguished at 6:20 a.m. Friday, makes the blaze one of the country’s worst cases of arson in recent decades. More than 30 people were also injured.

About 70 people were inside the three-story building when the fire was ignited on Thursday morning. In addition to the 19 victims found in the stairwell leading to the roof, 11 were found dead on the second floor, two on the first floor and one on the stairs between the second and third floors, the police said.

The suspect entered the building while screaming “Die!” and immediately splashed gasoline from a bucket before starting the fire, according to the police.

The authorities believe he was the man who was witnessed buying gasoline from a gas station near the site earlier Thursday morning and that he transported two 20-liter cans to the studio on a cart.

Police conducted an on-site investigation Friday at the burned building in order to establish their case for possible charges of arson, murder and attempted murder.

Many people came to offer prayers and flowers near the studio, where charred shelves and paper could be seen scattered inside through broken windows.

“I still can’t sort out my feelings and I can’t get over it,” said a 27-year-old woman who came from Nagoya after learning of the incident.

A 71-year-old man working near the site said he walked past several Kyoto Animation employees Thursday morning. “I feel really sorry for them,” he said, crying.

Kyoto Animation, also known as KyoAni, has produced popular TV animation series including “K-On!” and “Suzumiya Haruhi no Yuutsu” (“The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya”), which depict the daily lives of high school girls.

Animated film director Makoto Shinkai, known for his 2016 smash-hit “Kimi no Na wa.” (“Your Name.”), vowed Friday to continue making anime without hesitation.

“I would like to watch new works of KyoAni, and we, as workers in the same industry, hope to continue making (anime) without hesitation. I believe we ought to,” Shinkai said in Tokyo at the premiere of his new animated feature “Tenki no Ko” (“Weathering With You”).

“(Animators) desire to draw as many good pictures as they can and entertain audiences as much as possible. We are all companions in the same boat,” he said in a show of solidarity with the tragedy-hit studio.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, now on a tour of Caribbean countries, tweeted in Japanese that to many Taiwanese the studio is closely linked to youthful memories. She also expressed her sympathies for the victims and wished for a speedy recovery for those who were injured.



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